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Page last updated on January 20, 2023 at 2:34 pm

Digital Equity and Inclusion Activities

Digital Equity, Digital Inclusion, and the Digital Divide

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The City of Bloomington has been working diligently for several years to improve the broadband environment in Bloomington.  Digital equity is an important and integral part of this effort. What is digital equity? Digital equity refers to the fair distribution of the internet and modern technology throughout society. Factors that contribute to digital equity include access to the internet; the quality of internet service; the availability of quality computing devices; and one's training, comfort, and ability to effectively use computers and the internet. 

A term you may be more familiar with, digital divide, refers to the disparities in digital equity. Digital equity disparities often mirror other societal equity gaps such as those related to income, race, age, gender, and geographic location, among others. Action taken to mitigate the impacts of digital equity disparities is often referred to as digital inclusion

With the goal of improving digital equity in our community, the City developed a Digital Equity Strategic Plan in 2020. The first major activity in the development of our plan was the creation and administration of a scientific survey of Bloomington residents on digital equity issues and broadband access in April. That survey was completed by 1080 respondents. Building on the results of the survey, we have consulted with stakeholders and the public to draft the strategic plan itself. 

 

Digital Equity Initiative with Meridiam & GigabitNow

Meridiam is now constructing an open access fiber network in Bloomington. As part of this project Meridiam and the City have agreed on a transformational digital equity initiative. These commitments pass through to Meridiam's first ISP on its open access network, GigabitNow. The major features of the digital equity initiative are...

  • At least 250 Mbps up & down, with no bandwidth caps, no bandwidth throttling.
  • Service is essentially free (after application of the FCC Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) subsidy
  • Meridiam will hire Digital Equity staff and provide the City with $85k annually into the City's Digital Equity Fund 
  • The Digital Equity program will be available at all Bloomington Housing Authority apartment buildings
  • Eligibility is broad: Residents are eligible if eligible for one or more of the following federal or state programs:
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); HUD Housing Vouchers (also referred to as Section 8 Vouchers); The Indiana Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); the Indiana Department of Education’s free and reduced-price meals eligibility criteria; Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI); the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision; Medicaid; Federal Public Housing Assistance; WIC; or Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits.

For information about ongoing fiber construction and GigabitNow's ISP services, Bloomington residents should call or email GigabitNow Support at support@gigabitnow.com or 1-866-748-8066. More information is available at https://www.gigabitnow.com/bloomington/ including a construction/service status map and a form to indicate interest in the high-speed fiber service.

Digital Equity Grant Funds

To address the challenges of the digital divide identified by ITS’s recent digital equity survey and strategic plan, the City established a digital equity grants fund to support local nonprofits in their efforts to bridge the digital divide. ITS has seen inventive proposals that build capacity in the community to address digital equity challenges.

The goal of the City's Digital Equity Grants is to support projects that build individual and community capacity to:

  • help people subscribe to broadband services
  • help people secure effective computing devices to effectively use the internet
  • help people develop the knowledge, familiarity and digital skills needed to secure the benefits of the Internet and computers
  • help people use the internet safely and securely and confidently to engage in digital life
  • help people mitigate community digital equity gaps identified in the City's digital equity survey.

Digital Equity Grant FAQs

Who may apply for a Digital Equity grant?

A: Any Bloomington-based non-profit organization (or governmental organization) is eligible to apply. The organization must provide proof of 501(c)(3) status in their application materials.


When is the deadline to apply for a grant?

A: Submissions are being accepted Monday, May 2nd through Friday, June 17th, 2022 at 5:00 pm.


How much money is being awarded? How many grants are available?

A: The City of Bloomington again has $50,000 available to award in 2022. Grant amounts will depend on the size and scope of the digital equity project being proposed. The City of Bloomington Information & Technology Services department will distribute grants to multiple applicants with amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars and up.


What can I use a Digital Equity grant for?

A: The goal of the City's Digital Equity Grants is to support projects that build individual and community capacity to:

  • help people subscribe to broadband services
  • help people secure effective computing devices to effectively use the internet
  • help people develop the knowledge, familiarity and digital skills needed to secure the benefits of the Internet and computers
  • help people use the internet safely and securely and confidently to engage in digital life
  • help people mitigate community digital equity gaps identified in the City's digital equity survey.  Read the executive summary and report. 


Where do I apply for a Digital Equity grant?

A: The grant application can be submitted electronically here beginning Monday, May 2nd:

Digital Equity Grant Application

The application has been created using the Submittable online service and requires users to create or log in to an existing account. Click the link above and then click Submit to create or log in to an account.


What do I need to apply for a Digital Equity grant?

A: Grant applicants are required to fill out the online application and submit the following supporting documentation:

  • Project Budget detailing the use of City funds
  • Year-end financial statement including fund balance, total revenue and expenditures
  • Cost quotes on hardware, software or other items showing budget research (if organization is seeking funding for capital expenses/improvements)
  • 501(c)(3) documentation
  • A Memorandum of Understanding between parties (if this is a collaborative project)

Optional documents applicants may wish to submit include the following: letters documenting partner commitment, volunteer pledge sheets, curriculum overview, current program schedule, list of current technology, brochures, fliers or other promotional materials.

 
Do Digital Equity funds need to be spent within a certain time period?

A: Grants will be awarded in August 2022. Funds should be spent within a year of the award.


How many people is the City hoping to serve with this year’s Digital Equity grants?

Applicants are asked to estimate their target audience and size. A proposed project can be City-wide or serve an individual organization or small constituency.

Where can I learn more about the 2022 Digital Equity Grant process?

A: The City will host a public Q&A session via Zoom on Tuesday, May 10th at 10:00 a.m. The session can be accessed here.
 

Applications for Digital Equity Grants are also online here starting Monday, May 2nd and closing Friday, June 17th. Please contact Rick Dietz at dietzr@bloomington.in.gov if you have any questions.

Digital Equity Survey

The City of Bloomington conducted a Digital Equity survey assessing how residents use internet services in April 2020. The survey was sent to a randomized sample of 6,500 Bloomington households and was completed by 1,080 respondents. The survey’s full results are available here:  https://data.bloomington.in.gov/dataset/digital-equity

Some preliminary findings from the Digital Equity Community Survey include:

  • Broadband service is available in Bloomington, but speed, reliability, customer service and cost factors limit adoption. 
  • Low-income households are much more likely to lack internet access or only have internet access through smart phones. 12% of low income respondents never interact with the internet.
  • The homework gap (problems completing homework due to internet deficiencies) is significant for lower bandwidth households
  • Existing subsidy programs from internet service providers aren’t fully being used by eligible residents.
  • Caregivers are concerned about risks and their ability to protect minor children from online harms.
  • Low income residents report a lack of desired computing skills and are interested in training to improve skills.
  • The skills gap is pronounced for low income and older residents.  50% of respondents think they do not have the skills they need to use internet effectively and comfortably.
  • Fully half of respondents said their job requires internet access at home.
  • There is broad support for the City doing more to address digital equity issues and to improve broadband in Bloomington.